Can We Encourage Others—Can We Pray?

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Looking back at this post, this was just one day before I heard about the position I now have. On this particular Sunday, I was attending church, singing in the choir, and talking with someone after the service. Or, was it listening? Regardless, God was in it.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, March 2, 2014

BK only kindness matteres

Can We Encourage Others—Can We Pray?

As I brushed off the car this morning, I groaned. Internally, I mean. Will this snow and wintry weather ever stop? I drove to church down the half-deserted streets. Despite my grumbling about the cold and the snow, I grudgingly had to admit that the glistening white coating of snow did help. It helped the trees and grass to shine as the sun peeped through the clouds. Such a sight helped raise my spirits, too.

True, I did dash into church late. Late for choir practice, due to a minor waffle iron malfunction this morning. My son had a friend sleep over. I made waffles in a hurry before I left, but the first waffle stuck in the (older) waffle iron. I couldn’t very well run off and leave the waffle iron full of half-burnt pieces of waffle, so I did scrape and clean it off. (sigh)

I enjoy singing in choir! I like singing, period. Especially singing in parts. The morning service went well, too. I really worshiped, most of the time. (It’s a challenge to keep my mind on worship at all times, to tell the truth. I suspect most people would acknowledge that. At least, part of the time.) Since this is the first Sunday of the month, our church celebrated Communion. That was good, too.

Benediction said, church service over, congregation dismissed, sanctuary cleared. I went downstairs with the other parishioners to the memorial room (under the sanctuary). But—another worshiper caught me before I entered the large room. “Do you have a minute?” Sure, I nodded. “How do I get a prayer request in the prayer chain?” was the follow-up question.

Instantly, my chaplain antennae started to vibrate. “You came to the right place. I keep track of the requests and email out the weekly prayer list.” All of which are true. But I still had this intense feeling that something was going on with my fellow church member.  The two of us stepped into a little out-of-the-way area, and I asked for more information about the prayer request. It turned out, there were two requests. I wrote down both of the requests on a scrap of paper I had in my pocket. I used active listening. I pitched my voice to be soft and gentle. And—I used my less-anxious presence to help my fellow church member feel more calm and

After I wrote down specifics on the person we were praying for, I continued to listen closely to what the fellow parishioner was saying. I was moved to relate a couple of my views and spiritual insights concerning suffering, pain and death. And afterwards, we both teared up, and almost cried. I felt that my presence was appreciated! Not only by my fellow church member, but by many at worship today. But specifically, the situation regarding the prayer request after service? That’s my act of kindness today.  I am so glad I was at the right place, at the right time. Or—perhaps I was in the place God intended me to be today.  Regardless, I wonder what God will send my way tomorrow?

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation:

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers.   @chaplaineliza And read #40acts sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er – Thanks!)

Advertisements

(Best Of) Being Kind with Singing Valentines (Feature Friday!)

(the Best of) A Year of Being Kind, Friday, February 13, 2015

This is one of my favorite, poignant, heart-tugging posts from last year. Read it, and see if you agree.

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 14, 2014

bouquet of valentine roses

Being Kind with Singing Valentines  (Feature Friday!)

This Valentine’s Day story happened about ten years ago.  Not to me, but to my husband Kevin, instead.

My husband was part of a barbershop chorus here in the Chicago suburbs then. Not a large chorus, but a very earnest one. The chorus was part of the Barbershop Harmony Society, historically named the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. Sadly, his chorus disbanded a couple of years ago due to aging membership.

But, enough background. On to the important stuff—the story.

Singing valentines were one of the signature fundraisers for my husband’s chorus. They would advertise for several weeks before Valentine’s Day. Requests would come in, and a Singing Valentine barbershop quartet would travel to the specified place, dressed to the nines in their concert attire (sparkling white shirt, spiffy red vest, black tuxedo pants, even with black garters on the sleeves). The quartet would sing two songs (such as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”). One of the quartet would present the valentine recipient with a single red rose. Very romantic, and out of the ordinary, too.

My husband Kevin—the baritone for the quartet—went out with the rest of the guys to deliver several Singing Valentines. All of the quartet knew the drill for Singing Valentines. It didn’t matter whether they were going into a workplace, a restaurant, a home or apartment. They would go in, introduce themselves, sing two numbers, present the rose, and excuse themselves as quietly and quickly as possible. After all, they had more valentines to present.

However, this next Singing Valentine was different.

An older mother wanted her adult son to receive a Singing Valentine. Not the usual sweetheart or husband or wife, but it was the next on the list. The four guys drove in a single car from place to place. They had the address of this son, on Ridge in Chicago. Just south of Devon. They were unfamiliar with the facility. Misericordia, it was called. The quartet came into the facility and discovered it was a home for people with moderate to profound developmental disabilities. They announced themselves to the front desk. The facility was ready for them, and ushered the quartet into a large common room.

To the quartet’s surprise, the staff had painstakingly assembled between thirty-five to forty residents in the large room—residents in specialized wheelchairs, several sitting awkwardly, one even lying facedown on a wheeled cot . This was definitely not the typical Singing Valentine. As Kevin recounted the story, the quartet went into a quick huddle. No snappy valentine delivery this time. Instead, the quartet did their two numbers plus an additional set of songs. They gave an impromptu mini-concert for the assembled crowd. (It was a crowd, too! About three dozen residents plus a number of staff.) At the end, the son was presented with a rose, and the quartet quietly excused themselves. On to the next Singing Valentine.

Kevin recollected, “We went into the thing with a very business-like attitude. But, we were shocked into the realization that there was something much more human at stake. I think we were all a little choked up by the whole episode.” The business of delivering Singing Valentines had transformed into something deeper. Something more meaningful, more intensely touching.

What an opportunity to be kind. What a way to show love. Happy Valentine’s Day, in deed.

@chaplaineliza

(Suggestion: visit me at my daily blog for 2015: matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. Thanks!)

Can We Encourage Others—Can We Pray?

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, March 2, 2014

BK only kindness matteres

Can We Encourage Others—Can We Pray?

As I brushed off the car this morning, I groaned. Internally, I mean. Will this snow and wintry weather ever stop? I drove to church down the half-deserted streets. Despite my grumbling about the cold and the snow, I grudgingly had to admit that the glistening white coating of snow did help. It helped the trees and grass to shine as the sun peeped through the clouds. Such a sight helped raise my spirits, too.

True, I did dash into church late. Late for choir practice, due to a minor waffle iron malfunction this morning. My son had a friend sleep over. I made waffles in a hurry before I left, but the first waffle stuck in the (older) waffle iron. I couldn’t very well run off and leave the waffle iron full of half-burnt pieces of waffle, so I did scrape and clean it off. (sigh)

I enjoy singing in choir! I like singing, period. Especially singing in parts. The morning service went well, too. I really worshiped, most of the time. (It’s a challenge to keep my mind on worship at all times, to tell the truth. I suspect most people would acknowledge that. At least, part of the time.) Since this is the first Sunday of the month, our church celebrated Communion. That was good, too.

Benediction said, church service over, congregation dismissed, sanctuary cleared. I went downstairs with the other parishioners to the memorial room (under the sanctuary). But—another worshiper caught me before I entered the large room. “Do you have a minute?” Sure, I nodded. “How do I get a prayer request in the prayer chain?” was the follow-up question.

Instantly, my chaplain antennae started to vibrate. “You came to the right place. I keep track of the requests and email out the weekly prayer list.” All of which are true. But I still had this intense feeling that something was going on with my fellow church member.  The two of us stepped into a little out-of-the-way area, and I asked for more information about the prayer request. It turned out, there were two requests. I wrote down both of the requests on a scrap of paper I had in my pocket. I used active listening. I pitched my voice to be soft and gentle. And—I used my less-anxious presence to help my fellow church member feel more calm and

After I wrote down specifics on the person we were praying for, I continued to listen closely to what the fellow parishioner was saying. I was moved to relate a couple of my views and spiritual insights concerning suffering, pain and death. And afterwards, we both teared up, and almost cried. I felt that my presence was appreciated! Not only by my fellow church member, but by many at worship today. But specifically, the situation regarding the prayer request after service? That’s my act of kindness today.  I am so glad I was at the right place, at the right time. Or—perhaps I was in the place God intended me to be today.  Regardless, I wonder what God will send my way tomorrow?

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Being Kind with Singing Valentines (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 14, 2014

bouquet of valentine roses

Being Kind with Singing Valentines  (Feature Friday!)

This Valentine’s Day story happened about ten years ago.  Not to me, but to my husband Kevin, instead.

My husband was part of a barbershop chorus here in the Chicago suburbs then. Not a large chorus, but a very earnest one. The chorus was part of the Barbershop Harmony Society, historically named the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. Sadly, his chorus disbanded a couple of years ago due to aging membership.

But, enough background. On to the important stuff—the story.

Singing valentines were one of the signature fundraisers for my husband’s chorus. They would advertise for several weeks before Valentine’s Day. Requests would come in, and a Singing Valentine barbershop quartet would travel to the specified place, dressed to the nines in their concert attire (sparkling white shirt, spiffy red vest, black tuxedo pants, even with black garters on the sleeves). The quartet would sing two songs (such as “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”). One of the quartet would present the valentine recipient with a single red rose. Very romantic, and out of the ordinary, too.

My husband Kevin—the baritone for the quartet—went out with the rest of the guys to deliver several Singing Valentines. All of the quartet knew the drill for Singing Valentines. It didn’t matter whether they were going into a workplace, a restaurant, a home or apartment. They would go in, introduce themselves, sing two numbers, present the rose, and excuse themselves as quietly and quickly as possible. After all, they had more valentines to present.

However, this next Singing Valentine was different.

An older mother wanted her adult son to receive a Singing Valentine. Not the usual sweetheart or husband or wife, but it was the next on the list. The four guys drove in a single car from place to place. They had the address of this son, on Ridge in Chicago. Just south of Devon. They were unfamiliar with the facility. Misericordia, it was called. The quartet came into the facility and discovered it was a home for people with moderate to profound developmental disabilities. They announced themselves to the front desk. The facility was ready for them, and ushered the quartet into a large common room.

To the quartet’s surprise, the staff had painstakingly assembled between thirty-five to forty residents in the large room—residents in specialized wheelchairs, several sitting awkwardly, one even lying facedown on a wheeled cot . This was definitely not the typical Singing Valentine. As Kevin recounted the story, the quartet went into a quick huddle. No snappy valentine delivery this time. Instead, the quartet did their two numbers plus an additional set of songs. They gave an impromptu mini-concert for the assembled crowd. (It was a crowd, too! About three dozen residents plus a number of staff.) At the end, the son was presented with a rose, and the quartet quietly excused themselves. On to the next Singing Valentine.

Kevin recollected, “We went into the thing with a very business-like attitude. But, we were shocked into the realization that there was something much more human at stake. I think we were all a little choked up by the whole episode.” The business of delivering Singing Valentines had transformed into something deeper. Something more meaningful, more intensely touching.

What an opportunity to be kind. What a way to show love. Happy Valentine’s Day, in deed.

@chaplaineliza

Of Piano Playing and Being Kind

A Year of Being Kind blog – Sunday, January 5, 2014

piano lady

Of Piano Playing and Being Kind

I received a call last night. A pianist was unable to show up for two worship services this morning. I was asked whether I would be able to substitute at the last minute. Of course! I said. I’ve been at both of these retirement homes in Chicago a number of times, just not under these last-minute-circumstances.

Sometimes I preach and lead worship, more recently I’ve also played the piano, and a few times I’ve played both roles. So when I walked into the chapel at the first home, I knew all of the dear seniors present. I spoke to a few on my way to the piano. Because of snow and ice on the roads (as well as on my car), I came just two or three minutes before the service was to start. I played through two hymns as a prelude. After the service, I played a number of hymns as a postlude. Familiar hymns. Since I’ve been preaching, leading worship and playing for services at retirement homes over the past number of years, I know which hymns are more likely to elicit sighs and nods of recognition, and even seniors singing the words along with my playing. Thus it was with my postlude. One dear senior (mid-eighties? late eighties?) still has a very nice-sounding voice, and a marvelous memory for the words of many, many hymns.  As I played, I smiled as I listened to one, two, then three seniors singing the words of the hymns.

After almost ten minutes of playing the postlude, I rose from the piano bench to get ready to leave. I noticed that fully half of the seniors gathered there for the service had remained. They were listening to me, playing the piano. I stopped for a moment, realizing why they were still there. It was then that I heard the thanks. Sincere thank yous and gratitude coming from several of these dear seniors.

I quickly slogged several miles through the snow to the second retirement home, where this worship service was repeated. Again, the piano playing. The hymn singing was not quite as strong, but equally heartfelt. And after the worship, I again played a number of hymns for the postlude.

I wonder if this piano playing was the most important thing I’ve done all week, in God’s eyes? And afterwards, to have several of these dear seniors say ‘thank you’ with such sincerity and gratitude? I know many in this youth-oriented (even youth-worshipping) culture do not put much stock in their seniors. Many thoughtless or uncaring people today consider them to be not-as-important. Even forgettable.  The descriptive word to reference them is no longer ‘elders’ but ‘seniors.’ This telling change in vocabulary begins to show the shift in thinking.

Thank God that I was available and able to play the piano at a moment’s notice. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have had this revelation. What a way for me to be kind and tenderhearted, as Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus. Please, God, show me how to be kind and tenderhearted tomorrow, too.

@chaplaineliza